Marion Stegeman Hodgson

Marion StegemanHodgson (1921 - )

Marion Stegeman Hodgson, a native of Athens, Georgia, was one of the first women in the United States to train as a military pilot. As a senior at the University of Georgia, she was one of five women selected to learn to fly in the Civilian Pilot training Program in 1941. After obtaining her pilot's license, she became a volunteer for the rigorous World War II Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) pilot training program, where she served at one point as squadron commander for an incoming class. After graduation from flight school, she was assigned to the 5th Ferrying Group, Love Field, TX, where she flew both single and multi-engine Air Force planes, regularly delivering trainers and operational aircraft from factories to air bases nation­wide. This duty included piloting aircraft in unforeseen weather conditions to some of the remotest airfields while facing crises ranging from mechanical problems to sabotage. Thirty-eight of her sister pilots were killed in crashes in the line of duty. The WASP organization was eventually terminated with the return of sufficient male pilots from overseas.

Hodgson became a chronicler of women in aviation, writing numerous arti­cles for newspapers and magazines with a heavy focus on the WASP, whose history had largely gone unnoticed. She later discovered that WASP records had been stamped clas­sified and filed away in government archives, unavailable to researchers and historians. Her book, "Winning My Wings," first published by the Naval Institute Press, then reis­sued for further printings by Bright Sky Press, is under consideration for a movie. Her writings, at last, helped bring the singular contribution of this dedicated group of women to public attention. Belatedly, the WASP were recognized as veterans of World War II. Hodgson was a founding member of the WASP collection at Texas Women's University, the largest such collection in existence. She was an early supporter of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, Savannah, Georgia, which features an exhibit "Women in Aviation," that tells the story of the WASP. Her contribution to aviation was personally recognized by Lieutenant General E. Schuler, former commander of the 8th Air Force and past chairman of the Museum. Hodgson proudly wears her American Theater and World War II Victory medals on her specially tailored WASP uniform. A sought after speaker, she frequently addresses veteran and school groups about her experience. She is the recipi­ent of the Haddaway Medal and achieved recognition for exemplary performance from the Second Air Division of the 8th Air Force for her support of their memorial library in Norwich, England. In 2004 she was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame.

In recognition of her distinguished contribution to military aviation, Marion Stegeman Hodgson was enshrined into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on April 29, 2006.